How to show up authentically online

This article first appeared on Thrive Global.

Social media and authenticity don’t naturally go hand in hand. But where social media was once reserved for highlight reels and perfectly edited snapshots of our lives, brands and individuals alike are waking up to the benefits – both from a mental health and business perspective – of showing up authentically online.


We used to throw around the phrase ‘insta-worthy’ when sitting in front of a gourmet dinner, an idyllic beach, or an ornate passionfruit mojito. And if it wasn’t purely for the aesthetics, social media was a chance to show off: we tweet, geotag and snap pics of cultural events, gallery openings, and our bookshelves to show how erudite and #cultured we are. The modern day equivalent of nosy neighbours and their twitching curtains. It’s enough to make anyone feel anxious about hitting ‘post’.


But times are changing, not least because of lockdown. Influencers, content creators and celebrities haven’t been able to shoot sharp new photos, so we’re handed grainy pics of Kourtney Kardashian snapped by her young son Reign, and YouTube videos filmed via Zoom.


To be honest, it’s about time.


What exactly does showing up authentically online mean?


It’s about removing your filters, and letting your natural personality shine through. Of course, there are boundaries, and it’s always important to consider what’s appropriate in a given situation.

But as a general rule of thumb, the more of your personality you show online, the more of the ‘right’ followers you’re going to attract, whether thats for yourself as an individual, or for your business.

If you’re nervous about showing up authentically online, here are some pointers to put you at ease.


Protect yourself from comparisonitis


Believe it or not, it’s not just picture-perfect content that leads to comparisonitis. Clients of mine understand the importance of authenticity online, but still find themselves comparing their IG Lives to those of entrepreneurs with millions of followers, and 10+ years of experience. It’s about being fully yourself online, and that means putting your blinkers on and ignoring what everyone else is doing. If you must, consider unfollowing or muting anyone whose content brings out comparisonitis.


Get to ‘know’ yourself


For people who aren’t used to showing up authentically online, the idea can be daunting. The way to get over it? Get to ‘know’ yourself, and decide how you want to bring across your best personality traits online. If you’re a natural comedian, maybe a jokey IG Live is the way to go. If you’re an introvert who prefers conversation, perhaps going live in a private Facebook group would suit you better. There’s no right or wrong – it’s about doing what feels good to you.


You don’t have to jump in at the deep end


It’s a gradual process. If you’ve never talked to camera on social media, don’t offer to do a Live for an account with 10,000 followers. Start by posting some photos of yourself on your social media feed, and when you feel comfortable, film a short video of you speaking to the camera. Don’t be rushed by what anyone else is doing. There’s no need to go from 0 to a 30 minute vlog on YouTube if that’s not your thing.


Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to appear online bare-faced, 5 minutes after waking up.


It means being the ‘real you’, whether that’s in PJs on the couch, or dressed up and with perfect makeup.


It means saying what you think, and not holding back on swearing if that’s who you are.


It means not tidying your desk before filming a Q&A.


It means allowing your personality to shine and break through the noise pollution on social media.


Forget about filters, or double chins, or the perfectly crafted shot.


Your audience doesn’t want to see model-like perfection. They want to see you, someone they can relate to and see themselves being friends with.


If you’re a brand, don’t worry about over-the-top styled photoshoots.


We want to see your clothes on real people, and your products in real homes.


We want you to be authentic when you make mistakes.


We want to see that you understand who we are and how we think.


The world has changed beyond recognition this year, and going forward, we’re here for authenticity, transparency, and genuine connection.